We are in the refugee camp of Touloum in eastern Chad and the sun is bright. The camp is surrounded by desert for miles in every direction. It is quiet in the camp as we walk through, except for a small group of children who are playing outside and the occasional sound of a donkey trudging through the sand.
Periodic violence, reprisal attacks, recent displacement – the town of Bambari, almost right in the middle of the Central African Republic (CAR), is emblematic of the continuing crisis in the country. In 2013, many areas in CAR descended into intercommunal violence following the overthrow of the government by an amalgamation of rebel groups from the north known as the Séléka. Christian militia groups, known as anti-Balaka, started fighting against the Séléka (composed primarily of Muslims).
The over 360,000 Sudanese refugees currently in Chad have been there for over a decade. They fled to Chad after violence in their towns and villages in Darfur. And that violence in Darfur unfortunately continues.
Twelve years ago, when I was a high school student living in a small New England town, I remember hearing about Darfur. I remember seeing news reports about the terrible conflict there, and about the hundreds of thousands of people whose villages had been burned or bombed, forcing them into exile.
A few days in southern Turkey, in cities which have received Syrian refugees, leaves a complex feeling of both achievements and failures.
Turkey is currently the largest refugee hosting country in the world. More than two million Syrians have arrived over the past four years, and more are arriving as the conflict back home continues unabated. Every day, living conditions inside Syria become more precarious and dangerous.
“When we talk to people in the camps and cities, inside Syria and in Turkey, they say it’s ok if we don’t have enough food or health care, but it’s not ok if we don’t have education for our children.”
South Sudan is continuing to reel from internal conflict that ignited in the capital Juba a little more than a year ago and quickly spread throughout the country. On December 15th, 2013, fighting erupted in Juba between soldiers loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar and those loyal to President Salva Kiir. More than one year on the fighting continues, primarily in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states in the north.
This month, the people of central Philippines are marking a sad anniversary. On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall, drove a path of destruction across the region, killing over 6,000 people and displacing some four million.